A UN System-Wide Urban Monitoring Framework is being developed to support Local and Regional Governments


A UN System-Wide Urban Monitoring Framework is currently being developed to support Local and Regional Governments and stakeholders on their processes of monitoring and evaluating urban challenges, trends and public policies in cities. The Urban Monitoring Framework will be a key tool for the elaboration of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), and further strengthen the links between the national and local monitoring and reporting processes for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2020 it was agreed, at an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) held with the support of Madrid City Council, to arrange a Joint Urban Monitoring Group, led by UN-Habitat, to further develop and finalize the Monitoring Framework, which will be submitted to the United Nations Statistical Commission for its consideration.

Developing a UN System-Wide Urban Monitoring Framework

As part of the efforts of the United Nations system to advance the measurement frameworks of the SDGs, the UN Chief Executive Board in its 36th session tasked UN-Habitat to lead the consultation process in the development of a UN System-Wide strategy on sustainable urban development. The resulting document of May 2019 recognised the need for a United Nations system-wide approach to urban data management, that would align protocols for data sharing at the global level.

The Global Urban Monitoring Framework, currently being developed by a Joint Urban Monitoring Group led by UN-Habitat, will aim at ensuring thematic integration and inter-linkages among various dimensions of development, as well as the disaggregation of data and the inclusion of groups that are traditionally excluded. It will also promote working at different scales and functional urban areas, including ecological functional areas, enabling city comparability, and the possibility of more in-depth policy analysis.

At the indicators level, the Group is re-thinking some indicators addressing urban vulnerabilities associated to COVID-19, integrating key components and thematic elements from various UN Agencies (avoiding overlapping), and working with a group of indicators that are universal and enable regional comparability and contextual analysis.

During the process of design and development, UN-Habitat aims at making it inclusive and transparent, open, participatory, and pragmatic, as well as ensuring vigour and introducing innovation.

The Expert Group Meeting hosted by Madrid City Council

Over 100 urban experts from the United Nations system, academia, city leaders, private sector entities, international organizations, national and local governments joined a three day virtual Expert Group Meeting (EGM), in 2020, hosted by UN-Habitat with the support of  the Madrid City Council, to discuss the development of the UN System-Wide Urban Monitoring Framework.

The EGM built coherence and broad-based institutional ownership of monitoring the New Urban Agenda and the urban dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was aligned with UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities Flagship Programme which seeks to accelerate the realization of the SDGs by providing cities with monitoring and evaluation systems that define baselines, measurables and sequential objectives. 

In focused sessions of the EGM, representatives from cities like Madrid, New York, Los Angeles, Durban, Mannheim, Qassim, Bogota and Buenos Aires detailed the specific monitoring needs and challenges of cities from different contexts. United Nations agencies including UN Women, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO, UNGSII and UNODC along with all UN Regional Economic Commissions shared information on urban data collection methods and the importance of inclusion of relevant dimensions in the framework.

Likewise, Citibanamex, CitiIQ, ThinkCity, and ITU explained existing methodologies of city data measurement frameworks to be integrated into the framework for greater cohesion and standardization. In open discussions, participants explored the approaches to urban data management and aligning protocols for data sharing at the global level.

In the final discussions of the meeting, various organisations like the OECD, UNICEF and others announced their commitment and support for the ongoing process for developing the framework. There was a powerful pledge from Shanghai to fully support UN-Habitat and the SDG Cities Flagship Programme in carrying out joined-up research for the development of an Index and an Award which will recognize cities for their urban sustainable development practices, and to develop a Voluntary Local Review showcasing Shanghai’s advancement in the local implementation of the SDGs.

The results of this EGM feed the wider work of UN-Habitat on VLRs and will nurture the discussion of a upcoming EGM focused on VLRs, that UN-Habitat will host, together with Madrid City Council, in the following months.

For more information about the upcoming EGM on VLR, please write to Mr. Gonzalo Lacurcia at gonzalo.lacurcia@un.org or Ms. Ana Munoz at ana.munozarranz@un.org.





15 January 2021